Michelle Hackney is a mother of five originally from El Paso who is promoting her new bilingual book Mama’s Leche alongside illustrator Mia Ortiz. Michelle is originally from El Paso, and currently resides in Las Cruces. Michelle explains that above all else she is a mother of five, and this is where her purpose and motivation come from, allowing her to do her best work.
Living at the border has greatly influenced both Michelle’s and Mia’s work because it has shaped their ideas of family. Michelle and Mia are cousins who grew up in a big, lively, loud Latino family, where support for each other is unconditional. Michelle recognizes the bond with her family as something that is very common to the EL Paso community. For her part, Mia explained that she greatly looks up to the women in her family who have translated a sense of power and determination into her and her work.
These two cousins put the book Mama’s Leche together because they were lucky to both be pregnant at the same time and this allowed them to build a strong bond between them. They both wanted to share the “sacred bond that a mother and child create through breastfeeding,” from the baby’s perspective, to others. Their goal was to show support to other woman by trying to normalize breastfeeding and erase the negative stigmas attached to it. Mia shared with us that they found a way to collaborate with Michelle’s words and her ink drawings to share their special bond and their bond with their children through the baby’s perspective.
When it came time to illustrate her book, Michelle immediately thought of asking her cousin for help. “I gave Mia my story and asked if she’d take a crack at some drawings, she got right back to me with the most sincere images.” Michelle says that Mia’s simplicity in her drawings yet het ability to draw so much emotion caught her attention. Michelle recalls crying the first time she saw the illustrations because someone had managed to put her words to images. You can definitely see the love and respect that they have for each other, and if you talk to any of them, they have nothing but the kindest words for each other.
Talking about the border community and El Chuco, Michelle is quick to say that El Paso is very unique because of the local talent, in all areas. She truly believes El Paso is a mecca for art because of the many seriously talented and gifted artists.
For those of you who need tips on what to do around town, Michelle recommends eating as much Mexican food as you can, because nothing else in the nation compares! She also recommends experiencing the serenity of the desert and taking advantage of our beautiful mountains. She encourages people to go hiking through McKelligon Canyon, Scenic Drive, Transmountain Road, Aztec Caves, and Waco Tanks.
Overall, Michelle really encourages people to go out there and enjoy their city and their culture, and while you’re at it, you can go say hello to her at Chuco Relic (one of her favorite places in town) on November 26!
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